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Middle-Earth: Shadow of War Nemesis System and Domination guide

The Nemesis system earned Shadow of Mordor critical acclaim, and in Shadow of War it's even bigger still.

The nemesis system is really the thing that sets Monolith's Middle-Earth games apart, the way in which enemies react, grow and enjoy rivalries with the player something that felt truly unique and drove the original game to win a lot of awards and critical acclaim. In Shadow of War it returns, though it's been tweaked and changed to better fit the war-driven narrative of the sequel. The nemesis system is as deep as ever, but even those fully familiar with Shadow of Mordor might find themselves needing some advice on how it all plays out this time around. But bhave no fear - that's what we're here for!

At the top level, here's what you need to know: Shadow of War features five different regions - Minas Ithil, Cirith Ungol, Gorgototh, Nurnen and Seregost. Each region is home to a slew of objectives including towers to climb and Ithildin Doors to open with poems - and each region is guarded by its own suite of orcs, too. Those guys will run the gamut from worms right the way up to Overlords. Your ultimate aim is to take down the Overlord in order to take over the fortress he's in charge of, but in order to do that you're going to have to slice, dice, dominate and persuade your way through the ranks beneath him. This is where the nemesis system fully comes into play.

First of all, here's the heirarchy you need to worry about: Worms > Captains > Warchiefs > Overlord. There's never more than one Overlord, but there can be up to four different Warchiefs depending on where you are and beneath those Warchiefs you'll find many, many captains. Your job is to work your way up this chain, learning the strengths and weaknesses to make your battles easier and weaken the fortress. Let's talk about that.


Dominate Worms for intel

Worms are marked on the map with a green icon, but you can also spot them by entering Wraith Vision with a tap of L1 / LB, then scanning around the area visible with Wraith Vision until you see an orc that's glowing green. Either way works, though the Wraith Vision will work from a further distance beyond your mini-map range. Head on over to that orc.

Don't kill him! You'll want to separate him from his friends either by killing them first or via stealth, though the latter is always better since worms, true to form, will try to flee to the safety of an angry crowd once they realize you're coming for them. Once you've got the orc alone, get close but instead of executing a stealth kill or initiating combat instead press Circle / B to begin dominating them. This takes time, and for that time you're vulnerable.

After a brief sequence you'll be given the option to choose what intel you want before exploding the orc's head. This is what you dominate for - in order to get your hands on this precious intel. You'll be given an overview of the fortress you're attacking and then be able to select a Captain, Warchief or Overlord to obtain new information on. The intel you get will clue you in to things like which Warchief bodyguard Captains are protecting, or the individual weaknesses of specific orcs such as a fear of fire, weakness against stealth attacks or the like. This will significantly help in your quest to take them down - or in the case of Captains, dominate them. About that...


How to Dominate Captains

Dominating Captains isn't as simple as worms since they're actually a little, y'know, harder. They've got guts. Dominating Captains is much more worthwhile, however, as you get the option of recruiting them to your cause - and when you do this, you'll be able to encourage them to grow and level up to become a valuable asset to Talion in the war. While slaying orc captains is the main method of getting new loot, this is the difficult choice you need to make: choice, or a recruit? Take your time to battle a lot of captains and make sure you're getting an even spread of both, since you'll need both to progress and strong Orc underlings will seriously help you when you reach the final stretch of the game.

First thing's first: in order to Dominate Captains you'll need to unlock the right skill on Talion's skill tree, but this is a story skill, so it unlocks at a certain point in the story. It unlocks quite early on, but if you're in the first area and you're a Mordor veteran wondering where it is, just keep playing.

Once you've got that skill in order to dominate a Captain you'll need to 'break' them. In order to get them to broken state you need to drop their health and then you'll be presented with an icon to show that they're broken. A quick way to Break captains is to exploit their weaknesses, too - if a worm has fessed up a particular weakness try to exploit it for some near-instant breaking. Once they're broken you dominate them in the same way, but you'll want to keep in mind that domination takes a few seconds and make sure nobody else is going to attack you in that time. There are also some great skill upgrades that'll help to speed up domination or keep enemies off you while you do it.

When a Captain is dominated you'll then be presented with a few options - you can recruit them, fight against them, or shame them, which reduces their level and makes them hate you - and in true nemesis fashion, they'll of course be back. All of these options have their uses, so don't write any given one off. Keep in mind, too, that recruited captains can betray you.


Some other domination-related points worth keeping in mind...

Dominating Captains that are also Bodyguards to a Warchief

It's well worth keeping in mind that while you can't dominate Warchief Orcs - they're too strong - you can get at them through their bodyguards. Most Warchiefs will have bodyguards assigned to them from the ranks of captains below them. If you find and dominate the right captain, you'll have an additional option after following the domination steps outlined above: you'll be able to have them betray their warchief and join your side.

The impact of this isn't immediate - the orc will go away and that'll be that. When the time comes to take on the Warchief, however, the Captain in question will appear and backstab their charge, injuring them mortally and thus making them easier for you to take down.

If you're going for the kill, death treats increase your chances of good loot

If you're aiming to kill an orc rather than dominate, keep in mind that if you issue a death threat against an orc captain makes them prepare for your attack. This will make them harder to kill, but it'll also mean you have a shot at much better loot when they're killed - a fair trade-off, if you ask me.

Orcs that kill you level up - and for friendly orcs, there's the fighting pits

You can never dominate an orc that's a lower level than you, but if you see an orc who you quite fancy having on your side, you can game the nemesis system a bit by letting him kill you. He'll get cocky, and you'll be encouraged to take your revenge, but he'll also be promoted thanks to the fact he was able to kill Talion. This is a great way to buff up an orc before dominating them and turning them to your side.

For those already on your side you can send them on missions or, better still, put them in the fighting pits. The pits will put two orcs into a face-off, a fight to the death. There is a risk here since if your orc loses, they die - but if they die, you'll also have the orc who killed them as a potential replacement. Try to ensure you level your favorite orcs up as much as you can alongside Talion.

About the Author

Alex Donaldson avatar

Alex Donaldson

Assistant Editor

Alex started out his career in the games media as an over-eager kid working on fan sites, and now has decades of experience. He's the resident expert on esoteric matters such as Pokemon Go, gaming hardware, and genres like RPGs, fighters, and strategy games. Outside of VG247 he's the co-founder of genre-dedicated website RPG Site. He also collects original arcade machines, Lego, and considers himself a whisky buff.

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